Home > Helping patients with alcohol problems – a guide for primary care staff.

Anderson, Rolande and Martin, Joseph and Aherin, Adrian and Finegan, Pearse and Farren, Conor Kevin (2014) Helping patients with alcohol problems – a guide for primary care staff. Dublin: Irish College of General Practitioners.

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This guide is written for primary care health professionals and staff. Alcohol is responsible for a wide range of health and social harms in society and places a significant burden on the resources of the State in dealing with the consequences of its use and misuse. Ireland is ranked seventh highest for alcohol consumption in the EU .With approximately 4 in 5 Irish adults reporting their consumption of the substance, alcohol use is suggested to be embedded within the cultural fabric of the nation, receiving a level of accommodation extended to no other drug. On average, Irish adults binge drink more than adults in any other European country with 44% of those who drink stating that they binge drink on a regular basis. Primary care has the responsibility to identify and intervene with patients whose drinking is hazardous and harmful to their health (Grade D). Yet, only a small percentage of patients with alcohol problems are actually screened and treated in primary care as there is a reluctance to get involved in this area (Grade D). This has been due to many factors including lack of training, poor outcome expectations and lack of support. These guidelines attempt to redress some of these difficulties. It is not a “one size fits all” approach but that of trying to tailor the best fit to the patient. Many approaches are implementable in, and appropriate to the primary care setting. In a Cochrane Review, Kaner et al. (2007) concluded that brief intervention in primary care settings consistently led to reductions in alcohol consumption. In a meta-analysis review of 22 studies,Vasilaki et al. (2006) concluded that motivational interviewing is an effective intervention in relation to reducing alcohol consumption. Its value was particularly noticeable among young, heavy or low dependent drinkers, and among those who voluntarily seek help for alcohol problems.

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